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How Often to Feed? Mom to Mom
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Photo: Sarah Steele-Smith

 

Mother’s situation: How often to feed?

I think breastfeeding is going well for me and my six-week-old baby. His weight gain is good and he is pretty contented with plenty of wet and dirty diapers. However, my worry is how often he breastfeeds. Everyone I have spoken to has suggested four-hourly feeds are to be expected. My prenatal class teacher said to expect four-hourly feeds. My sister and sister-in-law both said their babies fed four hourly. Even my midwife said four hourly was the norm. I feel worried now because my baby feeds much more frequently than that, day and night. Could anything be wrong?

Response

The government in Brazil recommends mothers to breastfeed any time the baby wants to be fed—that means no rules at all. On the other hand, some doctors say babies should be fed every three or four hours… I feed my three-month-old baby freely: any time she wants, I offer.

Of course, we don’t have a routine and it is harder to make plans between one feed and the next. But I don’t approve of letting my baby cry because it isn’t time to feed. These time restrictions are intended to be for human convenience. I think what comes naturally is better for the baby.

Since babies are only breastfeeding for a short time, it’s not a big deal to spend more of your time on your children.

Beatriz Tompson, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Response

how-often-to-feed

Amy Denton

I would take all the advice about how often your baby should be feeding with a pinch of salt. Each baby is different and there are many factors that influence how often a baby will need or want to feed, and these will change as he grows.

I have four children. My first was a very frequent feeder (as a newborn every half hour, by 12 weeks he was still feeding every hour or so) and enjoyed suckling a great deal, so breastfed for comfort as well as having a big appetite. My second was not nearly such a keen eater (as a newborn every couple of hours, at 12 weeks every three to four hours), and didn’t appear to gain as much comfort from nursing. My third was different again, feeding every two hours or so from newborn through to about six months. My fourth has also been a pretty average feeder, though definitely more frequently than the four hours suggested to you.

You may find that as your baby has growth spurts, starts teething, starts crawling, enters other new stages, he will have different calorific and emotional needs. The wonderful thing about breastfeeding is that it works according to your child’s demand. If you have no outward cause for concern over your baby’s health, I see no reason to worry over the frequency of his feeds. Remember, those four-hourly feed suggestions may relate to formula-feeding, because formula takes much longer to digest than breast milk.

Sarah Bufton, Newport, Wales, UK

Response

I just wanted to reassure you that my first baby fed pretty much hourly for several months, and has now grown into a slim, healthy six-year-old. As I understand it, the gap between feedings for breastfed babies is very variable, depending on all sorts of factors, including the amount of milk your breasts can hold, its composition, the size of your baby’s stomach, and your baby’s metabolism.

At just six weeks old, your breastfeeding relationship is only just getting established, and your baby is growing fast. I remember a sleepless night I had when my little one was six weeks old, as I suddenly wondered whether I might be giving her an eating disorder by feeding her when she wasn’t actually hungry. After reading around the topic I concluded that this was most unlikely!

The important thing is that you are sensitive and responsive to your baby’s needs. In fact, if you try to increase the gap between his feedings towards the four-hour mark due only to concerns that he is out of line with advice you have received (rather than following his cues), there is the risk that he will be unable to obtain enough milk at a feeding, and this might result in a reduction in your milk supply.

Provided your baby’s weight gain is good and he seems happy, I doubt very much there is anything to worry about. If you are concerned, you can always discuss your worries with an LLL Leader, lactation consultant or health care professional.

Sarah Warren, Bath, UK

Response

It’s entirely normal that your six-week-old baby wants to feed more often than every four hours. He’s still adjusting to life outside the womb where he was used to getting fed constantly.

As he gets older he will naturally start to space out his feeds but breastfeeding is so much more than just feeding—it’s his entire world and a way of getting comfort like no other. Besides, I know I eat or drink far more often than every four hours, and I’m 34 years old!

Lois Rowlands, West Sussex, UK

Response

how-often-to-feed

Maria Griner

Throw away the clock and concentrate on your baby. Some will naturally fall into a regular pattern but most will eat as adults do, when they’re hungry. Think about your eating, some days you are really hungry, others you don’t fancy too much and others you want thirds and fourths.

When it comes to growth spurts or any illness they will naturally want more then too. Keep feeding when he asks, and well done!

Mandy George, West Lothian, Scotland, UK

Resource

Why Babies Need to Be Carried and Held

Mother’s new situation: Out of control!

Before my baby was born I had a full-time job and although I had a busy schedule and often felt I didn’t have sufficient time to fit everything in that I wanted to do, I knew where I stood. Since having a baby and leaving my office job to stay home with my daughter (who is now four months) I feel my life is upside down. I am incapable of setting and keeping to any routine that will accommodate both my baby’s and my own needs. When my husband gets home from work and asks me how I have spent the day, I struggle to tell him. I feel as though I have achieved nothing apart from having breastfed my daughter. How do other mothers who stay home best organize their time?

Please send your responses and new situations to editorbt@llli.org

Resources
all-in-good-time-Linnea-Weikleenget

Linnea Weikleenget

All in Good Time

Enough Milk. How to tell my newborn baby is getting enough

How often should I nurse my baby?

One breast or two?

The Work of Mothering


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